Bill Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff will be running the show for the AFC this weekend. Other than the fact that it means the Patriots aren't in the Super Bowl, do you consider this to be a benefit, hinderance, or a non-factor as the Pats prepare for the 2011 season?
Stephen: The way Bill Belichick dedicates his time and resources to building the best football team, I have little doubt that coaching the Pro Bowl will affect his preparation for the 2011 season. Whether its scouting other players or talking to potential free agents, he will find some way to benefit from coaching the AFC squad. The man has won three Super Bowl titles and is generally viewed as a great talent evaluator and roster manager. Missing a week or two for the Pro Bowl will not affect the way the Patriots and Belichick prepare to address their needs this offseason.
Derek: I think most other years, having Belichick coach the Pro Bowl may have given the Patriots an advantage in 2011. I'm sure Belichick doesn't have the best reputation in some circles and being coached by him first-hand may give certain free-agents a better picture of amazing coach that he is. Bill's Pro Bowl appearance in 2006 was a big reason for Adalius Thomas coming to New England. While that situation didn't end on the best terms, it's a good example that relationships built in Hawaii may just make it all the way to Foxboro.
However, this year, with six selections in the first three rounds, I would have to agree with Jason that Belichick would rather be scouting the Senior Bowl. The 2011 draft is going to be foundational for the next 5-6 years of Patriots football and will likely go a long way in determining whether or not New England can string together a few more championship runs before Brady retires.
Rick: It is a non-factor because its not fully positive because you want to be coaching in the Super Bowl. But, its not a hinderance either. Keep in mind, some of the AFC pro bowlers can be potential free agents down the road. If they like to play for Belichick, they will want to come to New England. Look at the relationship that Belichick has had with Chad Ochocinco. Now, people are actually talking about Ochocinco as a potential Patriot next year. Bill O'Brien gets more experience calling plays as well.
Jason: I consider it to be a hindrance because it keeps Belichick and the rest of the coaching staff away from Senior Bowl practices. The Senior Bowl is the last chance to see draft prospects in game situations, and it is one of the few chances NFL coaches get to observe college players at practice. There will certainly be no shortage of Patriots scouts at the practices and games, but I'm sure Belichick would much rather be scouting future prospects instead of sipping mai tais and wearing a flowered Hawaiian hoodie.